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What Sound Does a Dog Make, and Why?

Dogs make so many noises throughout the day, from baking to howling, whining to whimpering… But do these sounds actually mean anything?

Whether they’re trying to get your attention, notify you of a threat, tell you they need the bathroom, or are just sighing in contentment... dogs are always trying to communicate. 

1. Dog Barking

Dogs bark as their primary communication method, so it’s no wonder these “woofs” can mean different things. 

Why do dogs bark?

To understand why dogs bark, listen to the frequency, duration, and pitch of your puppy barking.

  • Multiple barks broken by pauses: This usually means your pup is trying to tell you that something needs investigating.
  • Single high-pitched barks: Dogs often bark to greet friends and family. These high-pitched “woofs” are your pup’s way of saying “hello!”
  • Extended, drawn-out barking: This type of bark is usually a warning of danger or a perceived threat to the pup or family.
  • A single, lively bark with a light growl: Although growling is usually considered to be one of the angry dog noises, when it’s combined with happy body language, this “woof” probably means your puppy is feeling playful.
  • Multiple pauses in a long barking sequence: This type of barking frequently indicates loneliness. 

Sometimes it might feel like your fur baby has been barking forever. If you’re wondering how to stop dogs barking, the easiest thing to do is figure out what your pup wants to tell you and address it, rather than trying to silence them. 

2. Yelping

A dog might yelp if you accidentally stand on their tail, they’re at the wrong end of the cat’s claws, or they’re taken by surprise.

Yelping is often followed by whimpering or whining, which is effectively their way of telling you, “that hurt!”

When a dog makes these noises, they’re looking for comfort and reassurance from the pack, so give them plenty of affection.

3. Whining or Whimpering

While dogs will often whine or whimper after a yelp to tell you they’re in pain and unhappy about it, there is another whining meaning owners should be aware of: they’re simply trying to get your attention.

Dogs may whine to be let outside, for food, or even just for a bit of attention and fuss. Puppies may also whimper to communicate that they’re stressed and want their mother (human or dog) before developing their bark.

Whimpers and whines are almost always sad dog noises… If your dog sounds like they’re crying, they probably are!  

4. Baying

Baying is a little harder to identify than some other dog sounds as it’s often misconstrued as barking or even howling. However, baying is a totally different form of communication in doggy language.

This prolonged, deep, throaty bark is generally associated with hunting dogs in pursuit of prey. The sound is used to alert hunters that they’ve caught the scent of their target.

However, baying can have a second meaning. It may be used by your pup when they perceive a threat – for example, an intruder on their territory.

5. Growling

Interestingly, growling doesn’t always mean “back off.” It can also be a sound of contentment or even playfulness. Paying attention to your dog’s body language and other sounds should help you determine what sort of growl your pup is exhibiting.

That said, if your dog is growling because they’re feeling stressed or threatened, it’s important to listen to them and back off. Ignoring the growl or (worse) punishing it will almost always lead to a bite.

6. Howling

Howling is a primal method of doggy communication, letting your pup talk to other dogs or packs from miles around… Just like their wolfy ancestors would!

There are two main reasons your dog is probably howling:

  • To let the pack know where they are.
  • To warn others to stay off their territory.

Dogs who suffer separation anxiety are especially prone to howling when left alone. Prolonged howling with unhappy or uncomfortable body language can also indicate depression or illness, so take your pup to the vet if they’re howling excessively.

There is one other reason dogs howl: it’s contagious! When a pup hears another dog howling, they’re likely to join in. This also goes for sirens and the ice-cream truck… They’re just trying to have a chat.

7. Honking

Dog honking sounds a bit like a ‘reverse sneeze’… Which is precisely what it is!

Honking usually happens when your pup has eaten or drank too quickly or if they’re overexcited. It can also be due to allergies, just like humans might sneeze from hay-fever.

8. Heaving

If you notice your pup dry heaving, this probably means they’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have! Usually, your pup will be able to throw up the suspect, but occasionally heaving can be a symptom of bloat.

Because bloat can be fatal in dogs, it’s essential to notify your vet immediately if your pup is frequently heaving.

9. Coughing

Dog coughing isn’t dissimilar to human coughing. It could be nothing, or it might be a symptom of a serious underlying medical condition.

Just a cough

Dogs explore with their noses, and sometimes this involves getting particles up there that irritate them, causing a cough. These short, singular coughing episodes should be over quickly, with no obvious distress for your pup.

Get it checked

If your dog’s coughing sounds like the following, or doesn’t stop after a minute or two, notify your vet immediately:

  • Hacking
  • Honking
  • Like they’re coughing up a hairball
  • Phlegmy coughs

These types of coughs could indicate something’s wrong with your pet, such as kennel cough, pneumonia, bronchitis, or congestive heart failure.

Happy Dog Noises

Although many dog sounds are used to let you know they’re stressed or even sick, most of the noises your pup makes will (hopefully) be happy and content.

  1. Laughing

Dog owners might notice their pup sometimes sounds like they’re laughing. Combine this with relaxed body language (open mouth, tongue handing out, and a “smiley” face), and you’re not far from the truth. 

  1. Growling

When dogs growl during play, this is an indicator that they’re having a great time (or maybe want you to up the game’s intensity). This type of growling is sometimes referred to as purring.

  1. Barking

Barking is a dog’s primary method of communication – it’s how they talk! If you’re wondering, ‘do dogs get tired of barking’… As long as it’s a happy bark, they’re probably happy to chat with you all day long! Threatening barks, however, probably need your attention. 

  1. Sighing and Moaning

Contented, happy dogs tend to sigh and moan when they settle into a comfortable spot – just like we do! 

Look for relaxed body language (head on paws, closed or semi-closed eyes) to accompany these moans, and give yourself a pat on the back for creating a relaxing and happy atmosphere for your fur baby!

Do dogs dream? 

Dogs don’t just make sounds when they’re awake… Sleeping pups can make all sorts of noises. If your puppy is noisy when asleep, this generally means they’re dreaming! Dogs can even snore.

If you want to make dreamland even more comfortable for your pup, you could consider a dog ramp for bed to help them cuddle up close. Dogs love to be near you, and studies have even shown that sleeping with your pet can help improve your sleep and reduce depression – so it’s a win/win! 

Communication is key

Whether they’re warning you that an intruder is approaching or simply sighing to let you know they’re content, understanding how your pup ‘speaks’ is key to a happy and prosperous relationship.

After all, they learn a little of our language… Why shouldn’t we try to learn a little of theirs?

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